According to ABI Research, technologies leveraging unlicensed and shared spectrum are attracting the interest of mobile network operators more than ever before. This is primarily due to the opportunities that the network technologies promote for densification, neutral hosts, as well as enterprise and private network operators. The new LTE unlicensed and shared spectrum technologies are expected to launch a US $1.7 billion hardware market over the next 5 years, including LTE-U (Unlicensed LTE), CBRS, and MulteFire.
LTE-U/LAA will appeal to operators who are looking to densify their networks but have insufficient spectrum or CAPEX to acquire it. Meanwhile, MulteFire and CBRS technologies promise very low network build-out costs with economics that threaten to disrupt the DAS market. The technologies appeal to many Communications Service Providers (CSPs), especially as CBRS pioneers a significant change in spectrum management for the industry. Also, traditional spectrum reframing cannot match the increasing mobile broadband throughput demands in the migration to 5G.
Given power restrictions in the unlicensed and shared spectrum, these technologies are most suitable for small cell indoor or venue deployments. With low to no spectrum acquisition costs and deployment economics comparable to Wi-Fi, in-building wireless penetration in the vast middle-sized and enterprise verticals will increase dramatically and account for more than half of in-building small cell shipments in 2021.
There are many companies innovating in this ecosystem ranging from the Spectrum Access System (SAS) providers and Environmental Sensing Capability (ESC) operators for CBRS, including Alphabet, CommScope, Federated Wireless, and small cell and infrastructure vendors like BaiCells, Casa Systems, Ericsson, Huawei, ip.access, Nokia, Ruckus, and SpiderCloud.
With CBRS, for instance, one signpost that it will transform the in-building wireless and mobile industries is that the CBRS Alliance, which advocates for CBRS technology, now has members from all four major US MNOs (AT&T, Verizon, T-Mobile, and Sprint), the major MSOs Comcast and Charter Communications, as well as Google, Intel, Nokia, and Qualcomm.
Click here for the detailed ABI Research report.